AI could replace 80 percent of human jobs in the next few years, but that’s a good thing, says US-Brazilian researcher Ben Goertzel, a leading AI guru.
Mathematician, cognitive scientist and famed robot creator Goertzel, 56, is the founder and chief executive officer of SingularityNET, a research group he launched to create “Artificial General Intelligence” or AGI – artificial intelligence with human cognitive capabilities.
With his long hair and leopard-print cowboy hat, Goertzel was in provocateur mode last week at the Web Summit in Rio de Janeiro, the world’s largest annual technology conference, where he told AFP in an interview that AGI is a few years old and has spoken out against recent efforts to curb AI research.
– Smart like humans? –
Q: How far are we from artificial intelligence with human cognitive capabilities?
“If we want machines to truly be as smart as people and nimble in dealing with the unknown, then they need to be able to leapfrog training and programming. And we’re not there yet. But I think there’s it’s reason to believe it will take years rather than decades to get there.”
– AI risk –
Q: What do you think about the AI debate like ChatGPT and its risks? Should there be a six-month research break, as some claim?
“I don’t think we should pause it because it’s like a dangerous superhuman AI… These are very interesting AI systems, but they’re not able to become like human-level general intelligences, because they can’t do complex multi-reasoning scenic, as if you were doing science. They can’t invent wild new things outside the scope of their training data.
“They can also spread misinformation and people say we should pause them because of that. To me it’s very strange. Why haven’t we banned the internet? The internet does exactly that. It gives you so much more information at your fingertips. And it spreads bullshit and misinformation .
“I think we should have a free society. And just like the internet shouldn’t be banned, we shouldn’t ban this either.”
– Threat to jobs –
Q: Isn’t their potential to replace people’s jobs a threat?
“You could probably make maybe 80 percent of the jobs people do obsolete, without having an AGI, in my opinion. Not with ChatGPT exactly as a product. But with systems of that nature, which will follow in the next few years.
“I don’t think it’s a threat. I think it’s a benefit. People can find better things to do with their lives than work for a living… Virtually every job that involves paperwork should be automatable.
“The problem I see is in the in-between period, when AIs are making one human job after another obsolete… I don’t know how to (solve) all the social problems.”
– Positive AIs –
Q: What can robots do for society today and what will they be able to do in the future if AGI is achieved?
“You can do a lot of good with AI.
“Like Grace, (a robotic nurse) that we presented at the Web Summit in Rio. In the United States, many elderly people are sitting alone in nursing homes. And they are not bad in terms of physical conditions: do you have medical care, food and big-screen TVs — but they’re terrible at emotional and social support. So, if you put humanoid robots in them, they’ll answer your questions, listen to your stories, help you make a phone call with your kids or take orders something online, then you’ll make people’s lives better. Once you get to an AGI, they’ll be even better mates.
“In that case, you’re not eliminating human jobs. Because basically, there aren’t enough people who want to do nurse and nursing assistant jobs.
“I think education will also be an amazing market for humanoid robots, as well as domestic help.”
– Regulation –
Q: What regulation do we need for AI to have a positive impact?
“What you need is for society to develop these AIs to do good things. And for the governance of AIs to be somewhat participatory among the population. All of these things are technically possible. The problem is that the companies that fund the most Some of the AI research isn’t concerned with doing good things. They’re concerned with maximizing shareholder value.”
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